Standard units of measurement were not always defined in lengths such as today. People began by using their own body as a measurement unit. Nowadays, thanks to the universally accepted units of measurement, the communication is made easier and statistics of global problems are discussed more clearly. However, it wasn’t always like this. The definition for meter and unit varied differently over the years. It makes you wonder, why the existing units of measurement are considered so accurate? Why are they more appreciated than the antique ones?
History of the meter
Even though meter is now used across the whole Europe as a standard unit, Europe once used yards and inches. People have come a long way to get to today’s meter unit. The meter unit was changing with time and under the reigns of kings, until it became standard and universally accepted.
In 1150, the distance unit, was the breadth of a man’s thumb, which was considered standard since King David of Scotland declared this “fact”.
Even more surprising is the definition of an inch centuries after that, which was:
“Three grains of barley, dry and round, placed end to end, lengthwise”
This relatively precise definition of an inch was made official during the reign of King Edward the second in the 14th century. Even though there is no proof of that, barley was used as a distance unit for hundreds of years before.
“Cubit” was also used as a unit of length measurement in ancient times. It is perhaps the most popular known antique unit. Cubit was the length of a human’s arm. More precisely it is determined by the length from the tip of the finger, positioned in right angle with the hand, to the elbow. The smaller units of a cubit were foot, hand or finger. And the larger unit than a cubit was the stride. As you have probably concluded, this unit could vary considerably because of the difference sizes of people.
All these units of measurement were valid only for Europe, while other parts of the world had their own definitions of distance units. However, in 1959, an internationally accepted unit of measurement is accepted. And so, an agreement for yard and pound is made in February the same year. An inch was officially recognized to being 25,4 millimeters.
However, the reason for the meter to be considered as accurate and be still used as a standard measure is that it uses the Earth as a reference.
History of a foot
Since there was little information on the Earth, in the history people set up the units of length by using the human body. Since the human body is different, the units of distance were not standard. Nevertheless people did their best and improvised. Archeological proofs suggest that the Romans and the Greeks also used the unit foot. It is supposed that the “foot” actually is a synonym for “shoe”. This assumption is based on the fact that people had shorter feet back then, which is why a booted foot was used.
The length of a foot in the English system was between 250mm and 335mm. The foot was usually subdivided into 12 digits, called unciae from where the English words inch and ounces are supposedly derived.
However in the 16th century, a more complex process of measuring the foot length was invented. The procedure involved 16 men who stand at the door of a church on a Sunday to be chosen for this action. They were supposed to put their feet one behind the other. It provides a certain length called rood. The 16th part of that length was the legitimate “foot” length.
In the 1100 however, King Henry of England decided that his foot should be the standard measurement for a “foot”.
Conversion from foot to meter
Even though nowadays there are some differences in decimals when it comes to converting feet to meters, the value is very close. The difference is only two parts in a million so there is no place for concerns.
1 foot = 0.304 800 609 6012 meter
As the civilization developed so has the need for units of measurement. People did their best to answer this task, given the information known at the time. By studying the evidence of all available sources, we have managed to get an idea of the origin, history and development of the measurement units.
Hopefully we have made some interesting points for you to think about. If you have any questions or doubts, leave us a comment in the comment section bellow!